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Clinic to Cockpit: Analysis of Aviator Grounding Periods Due to Psychiatric Disorders

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[Technical Report, Special Report]

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The process to return U.S. Air Force aviators to flying status due to psychiatric conditions involves multiple parties and can be lengthy. We examined grounding periods in a sample of aircrew to determine the causes of grounded time and to explore possible improvement in the waiver system. The authors examined aeromedical records of 41 aviators treated with antidepressant medication to determine three metrics total days grounded, days utilized by the flight surgeonmajor command to refer the case to the Aeromedical Consultation Service ACS, and days from receiving the referral to initiating the psychiatric evaluation at the ACS. A diverse range of duty positions was included in the study, with pilots 31.71 percent representing the largest single group. For aviators treated with antidepressant medication, total grounded time averaged 497.17 days standard deviation SD 212.60, with a range of 236-1035 days. The number of days that the flight surgeonmajor command took to refer the case to the ACS was 234.77 SD 109.15, with a range of 120-730 days. Finally, the number of days that ACS took to schedule an aviator for evaluation was 49.95 SD 34.74, with a range of 6-176 days. Treatment and stabilization combined accounted for 80 percent of the grounded time. Although there are opportunities to decrease grounded time through the actions of flight surgeons and the ACS, and the potential to lessen the required 180-day period of stability, aviators themselves hold the key to a more rapid return to the cockpit.

Subject Categories:

  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Psychology

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]